About two years ago, the Hagerty Drivers Club editorial team picked three sporty, European-designed cars powered by American V-8s and headed to the foothills for a day of canyon driving. The trio included an AC 428, which is a handsome, powerful convertible fitted with, appropriately, a 428-cubic-inch Ford V-8. The trio also included a Jensen Interceptor and an Iso Grifo, two of my all-time-favorite European/American hybrids.
I’m an unapologetic fan of pushrod V-8s, big-block and small-block alike, and the idea of beautiful bodywork wrapped around an easy-to-tune, easy-to-upgrade pushrod V-8 is a match made in heaven.
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What about the Sunbeam Tiger. The series 1 and 1A had a Ford 260 cu.in. and the Series 2 had the infamous Ford 289. These engines were not hot rodded but absolutely stock hp. For a British sports car of the period, they were totally civil to drive (handled well). comfortable, roll-up windows. windshield wipers and heater/defroster that worked, the convertible top actually went up and down with minimal effort and stored undetectable. I owned 2 over the years and kick myself every for selling the second one.
As a guy who's driven a Tiger-260 (shoeless, because that top-loader gets awful close to your right foot).... You and I must have completely different expectations on "handled well."
The one-off bent outer tie-rods (to make the one-off steering rack work around the SBF and frame) lead to disproportionate steering angles, so the car tracks, well, odd. She pushes into every corner you can put her in. Pulling a U-Turn on a divided highway for example causes the inner wheel to hop because it's darn near perpendicular to the car.
The rear leaf springs are terrifying under even the 260's launch power (and a 2-bbl, not a CAT Tiger with a whopping 450-ish CFM Autolite/Holley.) Servicing the rear spark plugs through a hole/plug in the firewall? Valve cover leaks require disassembly of the engine bay, pulling the driveshaft and exhaust, and suspending the motor at almost 90 degrees to the ground?
The interior was pretty. The wood. The Motorola radio. The wheel. She was fun in a straight line, underway. Reliable, sure. Cool factor? Absolutely.
Driving experience? Gimme a Healey 3000 or MGA or TR6 if you want the Brit vibe; a C2/C3 if you want 'Murican torque in a sportscar. All better vehicles for less cash. I can keep my shoes on (Size 11) and fit in the car (6' 2", 215lb.) to drive any of those.
Cool car, sure. I miss my buddy owning it, but I don't miss driving it...
Jensen CV8, Jensen FF (4 wheel drive), De Tomaso Mangusta, Pantera and Deauville, Ginetta G10, all Bristols since 407, Gordon Keeble, some TVR... And off course soooo many Rovers and derivatives (Range Rovers, Land Rovers, Morgans, several TVR's et al) since Solihull adapted and adopted the wonderful Buick 215 lightweight V8. The list is longer than one would think. Long live pushrod V8!
In May 1968, I was at the Morgan factory in Malvern Link to pick up my 1600-C which I had ordered six months before. It still had 5 hours work to be finished, so I had time to chat with Peter Morgan and some of the workers in metal, wood , and leather. One young fellow allowed that a V8 prototype existed---a bit of a secret, as I remember, and the "Plus 8" would be sold in 1969. In his opinion, my English Ford engine car was the better choice, because "look at the savings in petrol!" I drove the first import into Canada---around the block in downtown Toronto. With that lightweight Buick aluminum motor in that featherweight ash-wood-framed car, I really needed just high gear, even from a full stop. That was a wondrous discovery, but my '68 4/4 Competition looks better with its real chrome-rimmed dials, toggle switches, Connolly leather, and 72 spoke wheels. The gear changing is nice too.
We found a Facel Vega with Tom Cotter while shooting an episode of Barn Find Hunter a couple years ago. Super interesting car. It was my first time seeing one in person. I think Dean Martin had an HK500 at some point. If anybody is interested in Tom's Vega find, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/5p4JLdDe8SY?t=904
Buick's little push rod 215 cubic inch all aluminum V8 went on to Great Britain to power the Rover 2000 sedan, the MGB GT V8 and Triumph TR8 sports cars and Land Rover, Range Rover models in variations up to 4.6 liters. I had a 215 in a 1962 Buick Skylark convertible with the tiny four barrel carburetor and two speed automatic. Great fun.
The Rover using the V8 was the 3500s. It was also used in a lot of TVRs and small batch sports cars. _Back in my younger days I’ve done Rover V8 conversations to a Land Rover, Triumph Spitfire and a Ford Cortina. A very versatile engine that has lived a long and varied life.
The Ghia 450 looks like a scaled down Ford Torino in the front!
I am very sure that Tjaarda's Forenza design did NOT influence the Jeep ZJ,as that was going on years before at AMC.
I still own my TR8 I bought new. I few modes over the year and it dynos at 250hp. Still is a great fun to drive. I park next to Ferraris and seem to as much if not more attention and questions. Bob
I'm disapointed you didn't have the Iso Griffo on your list. Back in the 60s I used to go to a local Chrysler dealer that sold them. And even though a net search reveals that they were powered by big block Chevy and Ford Clevelands, I'm sure the ones I saw had Mopar engines. They were exquisitly stylish thanks to those damned Italians. And fast.
IMHO I believe one that you left out and is a beautiful design= Pantera. Exotic and easy to work on. Aftermarket up-grades (needed) are well manufactured and the Pantera commuity is full of wonderful people always ready to jump in and help
Before the Jensen Interceptor was the Jensen CV8. CV8 stood for Chrysler V 8 , they used 361's and 383's. Fiberglass bodied with aluminum door skins they had in my opinion beautiful lines. 500 were produced mainly right hand drive but a few lefts were produced as well. I'm happy to be the owner of 64 RH drive and will once again enjoy it when restoration is complete.